May is starting with a bang. First, my most popular bill, SB 319, has received a rough reception by Senate leadership (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 and SB 689 Debate — March 12, 2019 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 and SB 689 — March 3, 2019).
Despite longstanding Senatorial customs and practices to hear and vote on all bills introduced by members of the legislature, my Autobahn bill has not received such courtesies. There may be legitimate occasions when bills are pulled by the author, delayed by request of a committee chair, and/or not heard in the committee process for any number of reasons. I’ve had a number of bills fall into this category and pulled from committee with my consent, including SB 640, which attempted to help our severely disabled population on the streets by attempting to redefine “gravely disabled” in the Lanterman Act (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Bills 511, 584, 598, 496 and 640 — April 15, 2019). But at least I got a hearing on the bill.
Unfortunately, that was not the case with SB 319, where I attempted to engage my colleagues in a discussion about the future of our transportation system and to contemplate the world of automated and self-driving vehicles. Despite my best efforts to create a proposal that would meet all the stipulations of the Senate Transportation Committee’s rules and policies, I was not permitted to have the bill heard. In an effort to have the bill heard, we made last minute amendments at the recommendation of the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. But, it did not work. SB 319 is now a two-year bill, which means I cannot present it for a debate and possible vote until next year.
I understand the politics of being in the minority and I can do the math. I’m not complaining, but it’s a challenge to advance good public policy for my constituents and a strong plurality of center-right Californians in the state when the Senate policies are not applied equally and fairly. All the same, I submitted a piece to the Hoover Institution’s Eureka publication and it is the first piece below.
Ron Stein is back in the second piece below in Fox & Hounds (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Discussion — February 4, 2019). I met with representatives of the California Fuels & Convenience Alliance yesterday and encouraged gas station owners to post the details of the components that go into the price of a gallon of gas voluntarily, without my having to reintroduce my 2018 transparency bill, SB 1074 (see https://moorlach.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1074-truth-advertising-gas-prices).
The California Globe provides a perspective on the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications meeting yesterday morning in the third piece below. I’m the Vice Chair and the Chair informed me that he wanted to conclude the one-item agenda as quickly as possible.
There was one small problem. The author of the bill was not there. So, on camera, the Chair called him and asked where he was. “At home,” was the response. All done while the cameras must have been rolling and being broadcast around Sacramento on one of the many channels that carry legislative meetings live. Apparently, there was a personal emergency at the author’s residence that delayed him, but since no one responded to the reporter’s calls, that does not come through in the piece.
25th Anniversary Look Back
Chris Knap of the OC Register announced the biggest bombshell of the campaign with “Bergeson ends support of treasurer candidate — Politics: The state senator says she is uncertain of the accuracy of the challenger’s campaign.”
I had two campaign co-chairs, Congressman Chris Cox and State Senator and Orange County Supervisor candidate Marian M. Bergeson. With Bergeson’s withdrawal, I had to order all new stationery, something she never reimbursed me for. I personally pleaded with Sen. Bergeson, warning that she would be on the wrong side of the leadership curve when things imploded.
Bergeson would confess to me after the bankruptcy filing that every reporter would start their conversations with this question: “Why did you drop your endorsement of Moorlach?”
Moorlach said he was stunned and a bit mystified when Bergeson, R-Newport Beach, called him Monday and asked that he stop using her name.
The LA Times would weigh in on Bergeson’s move on May 1 in a political update column (see https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-04-30-mn-52163-story.html).
For the last edition of the Look Backs, see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 50 — April 29, 2019.
California’s Grapevine to Sacramento in Three Hours. . . in Your Car?
by John Moorlach
One of the great things about California is that we build the future. From Bill Hewlett and David Packard at the tail end of the 1930s, through Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the 1970s, to all our great tech companies today, the Golden State has blazed a path of innovation. All of that was built first on imagination.
That’s what I’m doing with Senate Bill 319, the High-Speed Road. Here’s the idea: build four lanes in the middle of Interstate 5 and allow someone to drive at, say, an average of 100 miles per hour, thus being able to traverse the 305 miles between the base of the Grapevine (south of Bakersfield) to Sacramento in three hours.
And when they get to their destination, they will be driving their own car or a self-driving rental. The cost to build: $3 billion.
Already on these and other state freeways, drivers commonly drive 85 miles per hour just to keep up with the traffic flow—when it is flowing, rather than stopped solid or crawling at a snail’s pace because more lanes are needed.
Contrast that with the failed high-speed rail project, which was sold to California voters in 2008 as making a Los Angeles to San Francisco trip in two hours and 40 minutes, and whose construction costs have since ballooned, at last estimate, to least $77 billion.
But when you reached your destination, you’d still have to take a bus, rent a car, request an Uber ride, hop on a scooter, or walk for that proverbial last mile. What an exorbitant expenditure of the taxpayers’ money that doesn’t count the costs of the last mile.
The California “high-speed road” is inspired by Germany’s famed autobahn system, which long has boasted unlimited speed limits. As Travel Pulse notes: “The German Autobahn has always had a special place in the world’s imagination, with thoughts of driving down this motorway holding a pole position on many a motorist’s bucket list.”
Similar adventures would entice motoring tourists to drive the high-speed road, giving a boost to the California tourism economy.
Aside from the fun, there are practical reasons for passing SB 319. Most Californians have gotten car sickness driving in stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 5. Then there’s dodging in and out of traffic to avoid being crushed between giant semis.
The high-speed road has numerous advantages. It would move a lot of cars off the existing slower lanes, allowing traffic there to flow more smoothly—and faster, albeit not at the unlimited speeds on the designated lanes of the high-speed road. This will assist goods movement.
Because the high-speed road would be closed to trucks, drivers on the new lanes wouldn’t have to worry about being held up by a semi race clogging the two existing lanes.
Because vehicles wouldn’t be stalled in traffic, idling and spewing out fumes while going nowhere, running at efficient speeds should reduce greenhouse gases.
Safety also could improve. According to World Health Organization data, German road fatalities were 4.3 per 100,000 inhabitants per year in 2015, compared to 10.9 in the United States.
Germany’s Federal Highway Research Institute, called BASt, calculated the death rate on national rural roads was 0.22 per million kilometers, but less than half that, 0.09, on autobahns.
Then there’s Montana, which removed its speed limits on some freeways in 1995, then restored them in 1999. An analysis by the National Motorists Association found: “The safest period on Montana’s Interstate highways was when there were no daytime speed limits or enforceable speed laws.”
“The doubling of fatal accidents,” the association stated, “occurred after Montana implemented its new safety program; complete with federal funding, artificially low speed limits and full enforcement.”
Naturally, like the autobahns, the high-speed road would have to be highly engineered and drivers trained properly before driving on them. Those are details to be worked out through the legislative process.
As to how the state would finance the project, a start would be to shift funding currently going to high-speed rail. According to a November 2018 audit by California’s state auditor, the rail project “receives 25 percent of the revenues from the State’s cap-and-trade program, resulting in $1.7 billion as of December 2017.”
Shifting that money to the high-speed road until its $3 billion cost is met would do the job.
Then there’s the $3.5 billion for the rail project from the federal government from the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus program. About $2.5 billion already has been spent, with around $929 million remaining. Because the money was contingent on a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line—not the truncated system that Governor Gavin Newsom now is supporting—President Trump has demanded a refund of the full $3.5 billion in federal cash.
How about if California uses that remaining $929 million on the high-speed road, and the state and Trump call it a deal? As the president wrote in The Art of the Deal: “I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”
Then the remainder of the project could be funded with cap-and-trade revenues.
There is a roadblock: SB 319 purportedly goes against the policy of the California State Senate Transportation Committee, as it “will not consider any measure that contains provisions advantaging or directing the construction or funding of a specific transportation project subject to the statutory project selection process administered by the California Transportation Commission (CTC) and involving the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and regional transportation agencies.”
Moreover: “The committee will not consider any measure that would result in changing a speed limit on a specific segment of highway or any class of highway without justification by an engineering and traffic survey (ETS).”
Let’s set the record straight. My proposal is outside this framework, with its own funding source, as described previously or through the potential use of tolls. The high-speed road is beyond Caltrans’s current, unimaginative State Transportation Improvement Program. It’s an innovative idea waiting for a green flag.
I’m advancing a new concept that would use new technologies. These could include not only self-driving cars, but also sensors built into the road to regulate speed, ensure proper lane changes, warn of hazards ahead, and even prevent drunk driving. For example, artificial intelligence could run ten cars a few feet apart at 100 miles per hour—more safely than current roads. There’s your train!
Another innovation might be to use the path cleared by the new high-speed road as a place that also could run Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, which would send individual “pods” carrying people at up to 700 miles per hour. In March, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission awarded a $2 million contract to study the feasibility of building a Hyperloop between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, which is a distance of about 304 miles (almost 20 miles longer than the stretch of I-5 between Sacramento and Bakersfield).
Said Aaron D. Kaufer, a member of that state’s House of Representatives: “As new technologies and methods of transport are contemplated, Pennsylvania has a unique opportunity to once again be a leader and innovator.”
The future is coming at us fast. Imagine using your cell phone to order a self-driving rental car. This personal rapid transit arrives and takes you up or down the Central Valley as you work or watch a video on your trip. The new designated lanes enhance this vision.
California should not cede to the Keystone State, or any other state, leadership in new transportation technologies. It’s time for Sacramento to start acting like an innovative company. We need transportation that’s faster and safer than what we currently have and based on artificial intelligence and other new technologies.
I want to keep California in the pole position.
By Ronald Stein
Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California
For decades, blue collar workers have been complaining about the high cost of fuels in California. And for decades the legislature has tiptoed around the issue of exposing the truth behind why the price of fuels in the state is so much higher than what the rest of the country regularly pays at the pump.
The current rhetoric the legislature is putting out is they can’t figure out why the cost of gas at the pump in California is noticeably higher than the rest of the country. Last month the Attorney General’s office called for an investigation of this phenomenon, and last week Governor Gavin Newsom joined the rhetoric. Yeah, like the AG and Governor are not in bed with the idea that the Oil and Gas industry is the go-to scape goat, the established bad guy, the Snidely Whiplash who can and will be blamed for any and everything that goes wrong today and tomorrow anywhere in the great State of California.
They are now fueling the idea, pun intended, that the oil companies are filling their pockets with the extra money California consumers experience at the pump. The local media are unknowing co-conspirators in this ruse.
Both the AG and Governor appear to have short memories. As early as last year at an April 23, 2018 hearing before the State Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. I testified in support of Senate Bill 1074 (John Moorlach) called “Disclosure of government-imposed costs,” which would have required gas stations to post near each gas and diesel pump a list of cost factors, to include federal, state and local taxes, as well as costs associated with the state’s environmental rules and regulations.
The Democrat controlled committee was adamant they did not want the public to see all the costs included in the posted pump price, and killed the Bill that would make gas pricing transparent, from future consideration and would have eliminated the need for an investigation in the first place. Today, we’re hearing the same concerns that Senate Bill 1074 (Moorlach) would have remedied. And the dance continues.
The Supermajority in the legislature are purposely hiding taxes and fees from California residents, keeping them blissfully ignorant of the many taxes and regulatory costs that drive up prices, to the point that Californians continue to pay almost $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country. Those taxes and fees include:
a) The federal fuel tax per gallon;
b) The state fuel tax per gallon;
c) The state sales tax per gallon;
d) Refinery reformatting costs per gallon;
e) Cap and trade program compliance costs per gallon;
f) Low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs per gallon; and
g) Renewable fuels standard program compliance costs per gallon.
That’s a lot of taxes and costs. The difference between those “fixed” governmental costs from taxes and environmental regulations would obviously explain the total costs the manufacturers of those fuels charge the vendors, who add their markup, and the actual price the consumer experiences at the pump.
Cap and trade went into effect in 2013, following the earlier Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the Renewable Fuel Standard. Now the Governor can’t seem to figure out why the prices jumped considerably. The people who make the laws and spin the tales decide the angle of the truth they want you to hear. Besides, they don’t want to have to explain what cap and trade is for the hundredth time after President Trump has literally designated it a bad word.
As the Cap & Trade and Low Carbon Fuel Standard Programs kick into higher gear in the coming years, more costs onto fuels are projected by 2030 which may ADD another dollar or two to the per gallon fuel cost consumers will pay at the pump.
Practically every other product we buy, clothes, computers, cars, furniture, office supplies, books, etc. come with the price listed on the tag, with the taxes then clearly added to the receipt.
Shouldn’t that courtesy be extended to the motoring public? Of course, it should. SB 1074 would have required that information be included in the price of the fuel we buy and be posted at the pump but the Democratic supermajority isn’t having any of that, now or in the future.
The high fuel taxes impact not just drivers, but almost everything in our economy, such as the food carried to grocery stores, materials to housing construction and clothing to children’s stores. Even Amazon.com and other online retailers will charge more for shipping as their costs rise.
Especially hurt by the high cost of fuel are the working poor, who often must commute an hour or more inland because coastal housing is so expensive. This demographic is the key constituency of the Democratic Party yet they are being left out in the cold air of disinformation.
It’s no wonder California continues to suffer the highest percentage of people in poverty, homeless and welfare crisis that’s so acute it shocks the world.
Senator John Moorlach’s bill in 2018 would have paved the way for motorists to find out what’s really going on but the Democratic supermajority’s dance card is full and fuel price transparency for the motoring public is not on it. This current spate of lawmakers will jostle around the idea of the need for full disclosure again and again when the issue arises, but any real action will be avoided until Democrats co-sponsor a reintroduced bill from Senator John Moorlach to force transparency of pricing at the pump bill that will give the blue collar workers the details of why Californians pay so much for fuel.
Sen. Stern Forgot to Attend Hearing on his Special Privilege Bill
Confusion over what this bill was really about was only part of the story
By Katy Grimes
An apparently unnecessary bill on “weatherization-eligible measures for low-income customers” left many in the Capitol scratching their heads Tuesday. But even stranger is that the bill’s author forgot to show up for the hearing on a bill that he requested a special privilege on.
Sen. Henry Stern
SB 766 by Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) was gutted and amended and referred to the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee after all the other bills for this cycle in the house of origin were already heard.
The scoop on this is the fact that the hearing was taking place at all because so many other bills were already sidelined. But Senate leadership made this special one-bill hearing happen (highly unusual), at the author’s request, yet he didn’t even show up to present the bill Tuesday.
The committee chairman and others tried calling him, only to find out that he was at home, Capitol sources said.
So Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) stepped in, presented the bill, and answered the questions in the debate.
What is SB 766 about?
Andrea Deveau, a Senior Vice President with government relations firm Strategies 360, was the only witness in support of SB 766, representing Recon Dynamics, which she described as “a technology company that stands at the nexus of technological support and modernization, providing asset tracking technologies that enable utility companies to operate more efficiently.” Confused faces stared at her from the hearing room dais.
Deveau said SB 766 “opens the door for the state to leverage low-income weatherization programs to utilize water efficiency technologies to increase savings.”
Sen. Steven Bradford
“I’m still at a loss on what this bill actually does,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). “Can someone please explain?”
“The bill will improve weatherization programs,” Deveau said. She said it directs the California Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission “to consider cost effective implantation of weatherization measures in low-income dwellings… it is an extension of a current program.”
California already requires an electrical or gas corporation to perform home weatherization services for low-income customers if the CPUC determines that a significant need for those services exists in the corporation’s service territory, the bill analysis says.
Bradford wasn’t satisfied. “I understand, but poor folks, just on the nature of being poor, always conserve water,” he said. “They have the lowest usage in the state, so I just don’t understand what we are expanding from. Is there a penalty if they don’t save?”
Deveau said there is no penalty, but rather “sort of communication with smart meters, which they already have installed.”
“The bill also says attic insulation, caulking, weather stripping, low flow faucets,” Hertzberg offered. The bill analysis specifies: “attic insulation, energy efficient refrigerators, energy efficient furnaces, weather-stripping, and other measures.”
“I too am a little confused,” said Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). “I’m curious — you mention water efficient technologies to reduce energy, and you mention low-flow shower heads. I’m just trying to figure out which are conservation measures that result in savings. Is it like a new water heater that uses less electricity?”
Real bill, spot bill, or something else going on?
The hearing went downhill from there, making it apparent that the bill is really not a serious bill. Perhaps it is a spot bill, to be gutted again and used at a later date for some other purpose. To say that the hearing was odd is an understatement.
California Globe contacted Andrea Deveau to get more detail on the bill and her client’s interest. We did not receive a response.
Additionally, I do not find Recon Dynamics or Strategies 360 on the California Secretary of State lobbyist employer page.
California Globe also contacted Sen. Henry Stern’s office to ask for more detail on the bill, and to see if Stern was okay since he missed the hearing. His office called back to ask what the article was about. I again explained that I watched the hearing and needed more information from the author on the bill, and inquired again about Sen. Stern. His office did not respond again by the close of business.
California Globe contacted Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s office to inquire about why he was asked to stand in for Sen. Stern. We did not receive a response.
California Globe also called the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications committee consultant to ask if they received a letter from Sen. Stern authorizing Sen. Hertzberg to present SB 766 in his stead, as is standard protocol. The committee consultant responded and told me I would need to call Sen. Stern’s office and ask him if he sent an authorization letter. She said her understanding of the rules “don’t require another member to request replacement by letter.”
However, the Standing Rules of the Senate state:
“A bill may not be considered in the absence of the author without his or her consent, except that a bill may be presented by the author’s representative who is authorized in writing.”
But that’s only part of the story. The fact that a Senator forgot to show up for a hearing on a bill that he requested a special privilege on, and still was able to get it passed, is astounding. SB 766 passed unanimously.
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